Cokie Roberts

Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
“And so she [Lindy Boggs] was on the Banking Committee. They were marking up or writing a piece of legislation to end discrimination in lending. And the language said, ‘on the basis of race, national origin, or creed’—something like that. And as she told the story, she went into the back room and wrote in, in longhand, ‘or sex or marital status,’ and Xeroxed it, and brought it back into the committee, and said, ‘I’m sure this was just an omission on the part of my colleagues who are so distinguished.’ That’s how we got equal credit, ladies.”
—Cokie Roberts, May 25, 2017

Abstract & Transcript

On May 25, 2017, the Office of the House Historian participated in a live oral history event, “An Afternoon with Cokie Roberts,” hosted by the Capitol Visitor Center. Much of the interview focused on Cokie Roberts’ reflections of her mother Lindy Boggs whose half-century association with the House spanned her time as the spouse of Representative Hale Boggs and later as a Member of Congress for 18 years. Roberts discusses the successful partnership of her parents during Hale Boggs’ 14 terms in the House. She describes the significant role Lindy Boggs played in the daily operation of her husband’s congressional office as a political confidante and expert campaigner—a function that continued to grow and led to her overseeing much of the Louisiana district work when Hale Boggs won a spot in the Democratic House Leadership. Roberts also shares her thoughts on her mother’s decision to run for Congress, her unique qualifications as a newly-elected Member, and how she promoted legislation to increase women’s rights.

As a longtime congressional correspondent, Roberts had the opportunity to closely observe not only her mother’s career, but those of other women in Congress. She discusses the evolving role of women in the institution, including the early organizational efforts which led to the formation of the Congresswomen’s Caucus in 1977. Roberts also recalls her time as a journalist, changes in reporting about Congress, and the obstacles women reporters faced during the 1970s and 1980s.

In 2007 and 2008, the Office of the Historian conducted two interviews with Cokie Roberts about her experience of growing up at the Capitol and becoming a congressional correspondent.

Biography

Born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on December 27, 1943, in New Orleans, Louisiana, “Cokie” Roberts is the youngest of the three children of Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., and Lindy Boggs. Roberts’ brother, Tommy, invented her nickname when, as a child, he could not pronounce her given name, Corinne.

Cokie attended private Catholic schools—the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1964, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in political science. She married New York Times correspondent Steven V. Roberts in 1966; they raised two children, Lee and Rebecca. The couple lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Europe for 11 years before returning to Washington, D.C.

Cokie Roberts came of age in the shadow of the Capitol. Her father, Hale Boggs, first won election to a term in the U.S. House in 1940 but lost re-nomination in 1942. After serving in the Naval Reserve during World War II, Boggs was re-elected to the House in 1946. He served from January 1947 until October 1972, when his plane disappeared while he was on a campaign trip to Alaska, and he was presumed dead. During his final decade in the House, Hale Boggs became a powerful member of the leadership, serving as Majority Whip (87th–91st Congresses) and Majority Leaders (92nd Congress). Lindy Boggs succeeded her husband in a special election in March 1973, shortly after his seat was declared vacant. A member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, she became an advocate for women’s economic rights, serving until her retirement in January 1991.

Roberts began her radio career as a foreign correspondent for CBS in the 1970s and started covering Capitol Hill for National Public Radio (NPR) in 1978, reporting on the Panama Canal Treaty. Beginning in the early 1980s, she was assigned to Capitol Hill full-time serving as the network’s congressional correspondent for more than a decade. Roberts co-anchored ABC’s “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996 through 2002.

A senior news analyst for NPR and a political commentator for ABC News, Roberts has won three Emmy Awards and was president of the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association from 1981 to 1982. She is the best-selling author of several books about American women’s history including, We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters (1998), Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation (2004), Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation (2008), and Capital Dames (2015).

Video

Effective Campaign Manager

Cokie Roberts describes her mother's role as campaign manager for her father when he served in Congress.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

A Different Time

Cokie Roberts describes how congressional families crossed party lines when her father served in the House.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Congresswomen's Caucus Coming Together

Cokie Roberts explains how the early Congresswomen's Caucus worked together on issues affecting women.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Influence and Power

Cokie Roberts talks about the difference between indirect influence and those who wield direct political power.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Women and Credit

Cokie Roberts describes how her mother ensured that women were included in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"I'm the Only Woman in the Room"

Cokie Roberts shares a story about Representative Bobbi Fiedler and her decision to protect the interests of women.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Gender Discrimination

Cokie Roberts recalls the blatant discrimination she and other women faced in the workforce during the 1960s.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Gender Quota

Cokie Roberts remembers the common practice and consequences of offices hiring only one woman.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Why Is It Still So Few?"

Cokie Roberts speculates as to why more women don't run for and hold elected office.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana
Interview recorded May 25, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Outside the Capitol
<i>Outside the Capitol</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_roberts_boggsfamily.xml
The Boggs family photographed walking along the East Front plaza of the Capitol in 1950. From left to right, Cokie, Hale, Tommy, Lindy, Barbara.
Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman Boggs
<i>Congressman Boggs<br /></i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_roberts_hale.xml
Cokie Roberts's father, Hale Boggs, served as Majority Whip (1961-1971) and Majority Leader (1971-1973).
Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
We Love Lindy
<i>We Love Lindy</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_roberts_button.xml
Cokie Roberts' mother, Lindy Boggs, was initially elected to fill the vacancy left by her husband. She served 9 terms in Congress (1973-1991), and used this button in her final campaign.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Corinne Claiborne (Lindy) Boggs
<i>Corinne Claiborne (Lindy) Boggs</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_roberts_lindy.xml
This portrait of Congresswoman Lindy Boggs was unveiled in the Capitol on September 27, 2004.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Cokie Roberts
<i>Cokie Roberts</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_roberts_portrait.xml

Cokie Roberts' experience growing up in and around the U.S. House of Representatives shaped her future as a nationally recognized congressional reporter.

 

Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
Cokie Roberts with Representative Lindy Boggs and Barbara Boggs Sigmund
<i>Cokie Roberts with Representative Lindy Boggs and Barbara Boggs Sigmund<br /></i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_roberts_women.xml
Cokie Roberts (left) posed with her mother, Representative Lindy Boggs (center) and her sister, Barbara Boggs Sigmund (right).
Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives